Most of the side streets of Picher and Cardin will be closed and barricaded beginning Monday in a move aimed at ending a recent spate of crime in the nearly abandoned former mining communities.
Doreen A. Finnie, Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma's public relations director, said the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, in an effort to assist the Environmental Protection Agency, State of Oklahoma, and the LICRA Trust recently assumed operations and maintenance of most of the utilities and infrastructure of the towns for the sake of continuing services and an orderly relocation of the few remaining residents and businesses located in the Tar Creek Superfund site.
With the relocation of most residents and businesses almost complete, and with most abandoned buildings already demolished or removed, illegal activities including trespassing, dumping, and drug manufacturing, have been occurring on many of the unoccupied properties in the Picher/Cardin area, she said.
Terry Durborow, Ottawa County sheriff, said that his office has gotten several calls about scrap metal and copper thefts. “People are going into the homes that are still there and taking stuff. Most of the thefts we have investigated up there in the past few months have occurred during the daytime,” he said.
The sheriff said they have made several arrests in regard to the metal thefts in that area.
Most of that land is federal or Quapaw Tribal land so the Quapaw's police force investigates incidents that occur on it, he said.
John Clarke, Ottawa County Board of Commissioners chairman, agreed. “A good piece of this site is tribal trust land. That is where a lot of the illegal dumping is happening. The tribe has placed dumpsters in three areas in the towns for household trash, etc. in an attempt to stop the illegal dumping,” he said.
Finnie said to try to stop that activity the tribe is preparing to close many of the former city streets in the towns.
Clarke said he was not aware that a firm decision had been made on which roads will be closed.
County roads, state highways, and main artery streets will remain open to allow through-traffic in most areas and to allow access to properties that are still occupied, she said.
Finnie said some owners of vacant properties might find it difficult to gain access but the tribe will post signs at the entrances of primary streets that have been closed, directing property owners to the tribe or Ottawa County to obtain access when they need it.
The Quapaw Tribe believes that by greatly curtailing the illegal activities these street closures will benefit landowners and all the residents of northeast Ottawa County, she said.
For more information regarding the planned street closures please contact Jeff Reeves at 918-675-4200.